Boutique Hoteliers Talk Food and Beverage
PHOTO: From left to right: John Evans, Jimmy Haber and John Meadow at the BLLA Boutique Hotel Investment Conference in NYC. (Photo by Ryan Rudnansky)
As boutique hotels become more popular and more guests file into their restaurants, it's more important than ever for the hotelier and the restaurateur to be on the same page.
How effective they are communicating with each other ultimately determines the guest experience.
Food and beverage inside boutique hotels was a major topic at the third annual Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association Boutique Hotel Investment Conference on June 3 in New York City.
Jimmy Haber, managing partner at ESquared Hospitality; John Evans, president and CEO of Trilogy Group of Companies & Opus Hotels; and John Meadow, founder and principal of LDV Hospitality shared their thoughts at the SVA Theatre on June 3.
While each had their own distinct way of tackling food and beverage at boutique hotels, all agreed on some things.
Meadow was adamant that the restaurant should generally be run by an independent restaurateur to keep things running smoothly. Haber, on the other hand, disagreed, noting that hoteliers run many of ESquared Hospitality’s restaurants, and that works out just fine.
But both agreed that, whatever the blueprint, the most important thing is creating that independent feeling inside boutique hotel restaurants, where individuality and uniqueness is celebrated…and expected from guests.
It means fostering the feeling “that this is the place for locals” and becoming accepted by the local community, Meadow said.
In a separate segment, Jason Pomeranc, CEO of The Pomeranc Group, echoed these sentiments, noting that the best marketing is “letting the locals do the work for you” and embracing them.
But when hoteliers and restaurateurs aren’t on the same page, that’s when properties can run into trouble, as the relationship between the hotelier and the restaurateur shows in the service at the restaurant.
That means fewer happy guests, and more negative reviews from guests. It can also naturally affect the reputation of the boutique hotel concept, which is based on great service and personalization.
Evans certainly understands the power of focusing on food and beverage in boutique hotels. Evans said a conversation he had with Ian Schrager (largely credited with spawning the boutique hotel concept) a few years back led to him focusing on food and beverage more.
"Restaurants and bars fill our hotels,” Evans said, adding that food and beverage drives growth in occupancy. Guests can be drawn to boutique hotels more by the culinary experience.
Haber, Evans and Meadow also shared their thoughts on the major challenges boutique hotels and their restaurants face these days.
Evans noted that the increase in popularity is great, but it presents a new obstacle: making sure successful restaurants don’t disturb the guest experience. That is, if the upscale boutique room is designed to be accommodating and relaxing, it’s important that the noise from the property’s restaurant(s) doesn’t disturb the guest stay and sleeping experience.
Evans, Haber and Meadow all agreed that another major challenge is the raise in minimum wage across the United States. That’s going to make it more difficult for boutique hotels and their restaurants to be financially sustainable (Haber mentioned that the margin for restaurants is already razor-thin). It will also effectively kill some potential deals in the works.
In a separate segment, Joel Eisemann, chief development officer of the Americas for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), added that it was “a big threat to profitability.”
To combat this, it’s more important than ever to make sound deals, especially when more guests are filing in to boutique hotels and demanding more resources.
“We’re all deal junkies,” Meadow said, but “doing the right deal is critical.”
Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure: There is plenty of business to be had as boutique hotels become more popular. It’s just a matter of dealing with the influx of demand when many small boutique properties have limited resources. Guests don’t necessarily care about the industry’s problems; they just want that ever-popular boutique experience.
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